Life Is Our Greatest Teacher

by Bernie Swain

Dream Big, Work Hard, and Never Give Up. Great inspiration, but it is not enough to help us succeed in life.

There is one lesson, more important than all others, that I have learned representing great leaders and achievers of all kinds. Life is our greatest teacher. Every day, life presents us with learning opportunities, decisions or forks in the road where we can take one path or another. They appear as the people who uniquely come into our lives, the moments in time we experience different from one another and the unexpected events we encounter. They are our turning points  –the people, moments and events that reveal themselves and offer us the opportunity to change. These powerful influences and defining moments will define our success and accomplishment in life.

Let me briefly explain.

No one in my family ever attended college, however, as a 17-year-old teenager, a single teacher at my high school encouraged me to attend college. In fact, that teacher inspired me. I could have followed in my family footsteps; it would have been easy. But I attended college and began a 19-year career path as a teacher. On the verge of my dream job as an athletic director at a major university, my wife encouraged me to start a business on my own based solely on a magazine article. I could have said, “I’ve worked too hard to give up my dream job,” but I listened, made a good – but risky – decision, quit my job and started a lecture agency. Together, we built the largest lecture agency in the world and I lived a life I would have never expected.

It has been often said to me, “The famous people you represent obviously had advantages and opportunities not available to the rest of us”. But I have never found that true. I learned through experience and research with great leaders and achievers that we all experience the same turning points, it is just what we do with them that counts. Tom Brokaw, who had a 50-year career at NBC, flunked out of college twice, but a teacher, much like the teacher who encouraged me to attend college, encouraged and guided Tom back to school. What would have happened if Tom had not listened to that teacher?

How do we take advantage of these turning points?

  1. Identify the people, moments in time and unexpected events that come into your life and offer you another path in life.
  2. Evaluate these turning points and make good and wise decisions.
  3. Commit fully to the decisions you make.

We will not all be great journalists like Tom Brokaw, but if with use our turning points to our advantage, we can all be successful and accomplished in our own way.


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